Third Menai crossing scrapped along with A55 and A483 road schemes as Welsh Government publishes review
Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters has announced that plans for a third crossing over the Menai Strait have been scrapped.
Improvements to other sections of the A55, along with the A483 and A494, have also been binned after the Welsh Government published the results of a review of major road building projects this afternoon.
The final report from the Welsh Roads Review Panel includes updates on over 50 road schemes that were put on hold in 2021.
The decision comes amid growing concerns about air pollution and calls to reduce emissions.
Although the majority of schemes in North Wales have been scrapped, smaller projects on the A487 at Rhiwstaerdywyll and Llwyn Mafon have been green lighted.
Mr Waters said the announcement would set the direction for the future of transport in Wales and “puts climate change at the heart of decision making”.
The decision has prompted Clwyd South MS Ken Skates to demand that decisions over roads, buses, rail and active travel are devolved to a regional level.
At present, decisions over whether to improve the A483, A55, A494 and A5 are made in Cardiff Bay, but Mr Skates wants those decisions to be made in North Wales – with funding also handed to the region.
He said: “We need certainty over how transport in North Wales will be improved. I’ve been Minister for Transport and Economy. The two roles are now split, but they are both incredibly demanding.
“Having that experience, I firmly believe that decisions over roads, buses, rail and active travel are best made at a regional level. It’s time to devolve to the north, beginning with our major roads.”
In announcing the scrapping of a range of schemes nationwide, Mr Waters told the Senedd: “We will not get to net zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over’ as he set out findings from some key documents that shape the future of road building in Wales.”
New documents published today show the full findings of the Roads Review Panel – an independent expert group tasked with assessing road building projects.
Together, they show the status of 59 projects, including those going ahead, those not progressing at this stage and those replaced by revised works.
In relation to the third Menai crossing, the review states: “The A55 Third Menai Crossing should not proceed. The case for change is not well-aligned with Welsh Government’s aim to reduce car mileage.
“The scheme would lead to increased traffic and carbon dioxide emissions, and a mode shift from public transport to car travel, inconsistent with the target to increase sustainable transport mode share.”
It also highlights the potential for the congestion issue over the Menai Strait to be addressed through other interventions, including the North Wales Metro programme.
There were various improvement schemes scheduled along the length of the A55 but they have also been binned.
In relation to the proposed Flintshire Red Route, the recommendation from the panel states: “The scheme should not proceed. The case for change is not well-aligned with Welsh Government’s aim to reduce car mileage.
“The scheme would increase private car capacity and result in a mode shift from public transport to car travel, and this would undermine the target to increase sustainable transport mode share.”
Politicians have criticised the decision to abandon the proposed eight-mile stretch of dual carriageway would have linked the A55 at Northop with the A494 and A550 north of Deeside Parkway Junction via the Flintshire Bridge.
The route was designed as a solution to heavy traffic and air pollution on the A494 Aston Hill, resulting from a public consultation in 2017.
Proposed improvements to several junctions of the A483 Wrexham bypass have also been scrapped.
Speaking in the Senedd this afternoon, Mr Waters said: “Let me be very clear at the outset, we will still invest in roads. In fact, we are building new roads as I speak – but we are raising the bar for where new roads are the right response to transport problems.
“We are also investing in real alternatives, including investment in rail, bus, walking and cycling projects.
“Of course, doing that in an age of austerity is very challenging. Not only are we not getting our share of HS2 investment, but the UK Government is pushing many bus services over a cliff edge, as well as slashing our capital investment budgets.
“Even if we’d wanted to keep progressing all the road schemes in the pipeline we just do not have the money to do so. Our capital budget will be 8% lower next year in real terms as a result of the UK Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure.
“With fewer resources it becomes even more important to prioritise and the roads review helps us to do that.”
Going forward, the Welsh Government said it will only consider future road investment for projects that:
- Reduce carbon emissions and support a shift to public transport, walking and cycling
- Improve safety through small-scale change
- Help the Welsh Government adapt to the impacts of climate change
- Provide connections to jobs and areas of economic activity in a way that maximises the use of public transport, walking and cycling
In developing schemes, it said the focus should be on minimising carbon emissions, not increasing road capacity, not increasing emissions through higher vehicle speeds and not adversely affecting ecologically valuable sites.
The Deputy Minister added: “Our approach for the last 70 years is not working.
“As the review points out the by-pass that was demanded to relieve congestion often ends up leading to extra traffic, which in time brings further demands for extra lanes, wider junctions and more roads.
“Round and round we go, emitting more and more carbon as we do it and we will not get to Net Zero unless we stop doing the same thing over and over.
“When Julie James and I took up our new roles, we made clear that in this decade Wales has to make greater cuts in emissions than we have in the whole of the last three decades combined.
“Greater cuts in the next ten years than the whole of the last 30 – that’s what the science says we need to do if we are to future-proof Wales.
“The UN General Secretary has warned that unless we act decisively now we face a ‘climate catastrophe’.
“If we are to declare a Climate and Nature Emergency, legislate to protect the Well-being of Future Generations, and put into law a requirement to reach NetZero by 2050 – we simply have to be prepared to follow through.”
In his response to the Welsh Government, Ken Skates said decisions and funding regarding rail improvements in North Wales should be devolved to the region from Westminster.
He added: “At the moment, those decisions and the funding that accompanies them sit with UK Government.
“At the very least, should we succeed in getting a consequential of HS2 expenditure, then it should allocated fairly to the North on a track mile basis.
“We need to be in charge of our own transport system here in North Wales. Both Cardiff and London need to hand over the powers and funding to enable us to take charge and deliver for our citizens.”
The full report can be read by clicking here with decisions relating to North Wales roads schemes viewable below.
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